… then decides to make voluntary contributions to Covid-19 fund 

MB Subba 

The Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) has made numerous recommendations to the government, which includes deferment of loans and taxes for tour operators, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ABTO is hoping that some of the recommendations will be incorporated in its economic relief package that the government is expected to announce soon.

Saying that tourism is the worst-hit sector, the ABTO recently submitted to the government for cost-sharing of the salary of the existing full-time employees on a 50-50 basis between the government and the employer.

The proposed measure, according to the ABTO’s submission, should be implemented for the next six months from April 2020.

The ABTO recommended deferring business income tax (BIT) and corporate income tax (CIT) filing deadline beyond March 31. This was aimed at helping maintain continued cash flow in the sector.

The association has also recommended waiver of BIT and CIT license renewal fee for 2020.

The ABTO is also seeking a complete waiver or 50 percent tax rebate to tour operators once the travel restrictions are lifted.    

There is also a plan to seek postponement of sustainable development fee (SDF) on regional tourists.

The ABTO also wants lowering loan interest rates and data charges.

In its monetary recommendations, the association sought working capital loans to facilitate tour operators to cover all of the company’s immediate expenses for the next year.

The ABTO wants the government to provide the capital loans to be made available at a zero or very minimal interest rate and repayment to be done over a period of four years.

The ABTO solicited soft loans for marketing, product development and staff retention after lifting of travel restriction. They sought the soft loans to be interest-free until the return of normalcy.

The association also recommended deferment of loan repayments for one year.

The ABTO also suggested the government to allow cancellation charges as per respective tour operator cancellation policy or individual tour operators’ willingness to refund 100 percent in good faith.

For postponement of trips, allowing tour operators to en-cash excess tour payments maintained with TCB to help in cash flow to pay for rental, salary, utilities and sustain livelihood was the recommendation.

The association has also made its submission to waive 30 percent BIT on the released amount and those tour operators who would like to redeposit the equivalent Ngultrum at a later date to be allowed and deposited amount to be converted into USD.

The executive director of ABTO, Sonam Dorji said that the association has also proposed various training and skills up-gradation programmes for employees and tour operators.

“However, fiscal and monetary measures are crucial parts. We are not expecting all the recommendations to be accepted,” Sonam Dorji said.

He said that he was expecting the economic stimulus packages to be dynamic and unveiled in a few days.

ABTO to make contributions in Covid-19 fund

In view of individuals and organizations coming forth in solidarity with the government to combat Covid-19, the ABTO decided to seek voluntary contributions from members to support the national effort.

“This shall be an act of unprecedented solidarity at a time when our nation and the fellow citizens need helping hands the most,” ABTO states.

The ABTO decision to make the contribution was aimed at galvanising support from other sections of the society and sending the message of national unity and togetherness.

“Any amount you contribute will be meaningful in (the sense) that we come together under the ambit of ABTO to show our empathy, which our fellow citizens will duly acknowledge and appreciate. It is an opportunity to show that we genuinely care and that we shall leave no stone unturned to help avert this looming disaster,” ABTO states.

The ABTO has already received Nu 216,001 from tour operators. The amounts contributed from the individual companies range from Nu 5,000 to Nu 50,000.